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The Witness Rumination (spoilers)

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1 The Witness Rumination (spoilers) on Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:11 pm

I'd been looking forward to this one for a while. I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed, though my expectations were understandably tempered given the nature of the game and the tone of your comments on stream whenever it came up. I'm glad to hear the secret ending worked for you; I wasn't sure it would be enough. I wish I could've seen your face when you found the hidden logs. We probably had the same reaction (holy crap, there IS a backstory!).

I think your interpretation of the ending is spot on. The person coming out of the simulation is definitely trying to apply the UI mechanics to the real world and seems to be confused at why it isn't working (BTW, Blow wore the GoPro himself; it took 4 takes). I actually had a similar reaction IRL - for weeks after finishing the game I was seeing secret line puzzles everywhere I went because for so long I'd trained my eyes to look for them. I suspect the player was actually one of the simulation designers doing a full test run, both because the building he wakes up in has framed pictures of the puzzles hanging on the wall (which, granted, could just be a sort of fun reference to the fact that Blow obviously filmed it in their office) and because I doubt it would've been released to the public given that, in both of our interpretations, the overall effect doesn't seem to have been positive. The one girl who did a preliminary test seemed like she'd had a profound experience, but I'm more inclined to interpret that as the equivalent of an ayahuasca trip than actual enlightenment.

One of the logs said they we're doing some kind of suppression in the brain, comparing the experience to a dream, and another says they'd be in "very susceptible states." I think the idea was to sort of quiet the usual noise in the brain through brainwave altering hardware and to bypass the inhibition of the senses and the usual linear thought process of the waking mind, acting directly on the subconscious and giving it a chance to explore itself and grow, providing the puzzles and audio logs as objects of concentration to encourage some degree of focus and clarity, keeping it from turning into an aimless head trip. What I find most interesting is that they expected to hear the logs a lot of times. It seems like this was supposed to be a sort of regiment, a process of gradual refinement. Maybe that's why the glass elevator resets the whole thing; the only way to get out is to develop the subconscious enough that it discovers the secret puzzles, ensuring that it has that experience of changing the way that it looks at the world. The other odd thing they brought up was that they were dealing with most-favored-nation clauses. It must've been a pretty high profile project for that to be a concern, yet they weren't well funded enough to afford Carl Sagan quotes so it was probably an independent group of scientists rather than a government experiment.

I was surprised you made no mention of the perspective theme. I know you don't usually talk about symbolism and metaphor, but this didn't seem any more abstract than, say, the eye symbolism in Blade Runner. To me, it's what the whole game is about. This is my favorite example:

From one perspective it looks like he's crying to heaven in anguish, but from another he's a gleefully prancing juggler. There are tons of these and they're easy to miss, even when you're looking right at them and know what you're looking for. You have to look at things not just from different physical perspectives, but mental ones as well. And that's what I think all of the voice logs are about. While they're all about the pursuit of ultimate truth concerning our reality/existence/consciousness/etc, they come from many different perspectives, running the gamut from Roman Catholicism to Eastern Mysticism to Atheism to New Age. While I'm sure that part of Blow's intent was to expose players to some of these different ways of thinking, it's not so much what they're saying as it is a presentation of how many different ways of looking at life there are. And then of course there's the secret puzzles, which could rightly be called perspective puzzles. The turning point of the game is when you discover your first one and you get that awesome moment of realization that these things are absolutely everywhere and you just haven't been noticing them until now, and your entire approach to the game changes radically. You literally comb the world from every perspective you can think of looking for hidden puzzles. I think it's about showing you the fun of searching life from different perspectives and the joy of the discoveries it can lead to, and it's expressed through gameplay perfectly. Sometimes it's hard and tedious and you hit dead ends, but occasionally you're rewarded with the thrill of finding something new - of realizing how a puzzle mechanic works, of finding a secret puzzle, or of finding a perspective Easter Egg. It's the best use of game mechanics to express theme that I've seen since Undertale. In-lore, I suspect the island's creators had similar intentions.

Anyway, I was curious about some of the mundane details of your experience.

1) How did you do on the gauntlet? I got somewhat lucky and cleared it in half an hour (I had Megalovania going in the background. Megalovania makes everything better.)
2) Did you cheat? I succumbed to the red door.
3) What was your first secret puzzle? Did you bother completing all of the pillars?
4) Did you realize that the pond is a dynamic map of the collectables?
5) There were at least 3 times where I got stuck on a puzzle for a long time, then the next time I tried it I got it on literally the first try. And it wasn't because I'd learned anything new about how it worked or gotten practice with it. Apparently this is a common experience, as if somehow this game's puzzles engage your subconscious in a unique way when you're resting. Did this ever happen to you?

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2 Re: The Witness Rumination (spoilers) on Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:42 pm

1: Man, the gauntlet kicked my ass so hard. Took me longer than the rest of the game combined, though that's probably best explained by mentioning...
2: ...yes I had guides helping me at literally every step past, say, the first 10 or so. I'm not good at puzzles in general and I have limited time to play any given game so I did a few for the experience then cheated through the rest.
3: The one in the Mountain area I THINK. And no I didn't finish all the pillars.
4: I actually did, meant to mention that, stupid me. (I also meant to mention the perspective thing, thought I did? It was a note... I mean the usage of audio and visual queues was everywhere in that game)
5: Nnno. Though that's probably explained by point 2. For me if I get stuck on a puzzle I have to remove it from my thoughts entirely and come back to it later, to alter my thinking on it.

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3 Re: The Witness Rumination (spoilers) on Tue Feb 07, 2017 2:46 am

Really? Somehow I always took you for a natural puzzle solver. Though I totally expected you to cheat through half of the game anyway just for the time reasons. What about the Myst games? You ever get into those?

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